July 2020

12 Things I’d Tell Any New Traveler

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A solo traveler standing on a mountain looking out into the distance
Updated: 7/10/20 | July 10th, 2020 (Originally published 3/30/15)

Hope. Fear. Excitement. Traveling for the first time produced a wave of emotions.

When I left to travel the world on my first round-the-world trip, I didn’t know what to expect.

Now, with fifteen years of travel experience under my belt, I know better. Traveling is second nature to me now. I land in an airport and I just go on autopilot.

But, back then, I was as green as they come.

To compensate for my lack of experience, I followed my guidebooks and wet my feet by going on organized tours. I was young and inexperienced and I made a lot of rookie travel mistakes.

I know what’s like to just be starting out and have a mind filled with questions, anxieties, and concerns.

So, if you’re new to travel and looking for advice to help you prepare, here are 12 tips that I’d tell a new traveler to help them avoid some of my early mistakes:
 

1. Don’t Be Scared

Fear is a powerful deterrent. Taking the leap into the unknown is scary, but remember: you aren’t the first person to travel the world. You aren’t discovering new continents or exploring uncharted territories.

There is a well-worn travel trail out there and people to help guide you along the way. If millions of people can make their way around the world each year, you can too.

You’re just as capable as anyone else. After all, you did the hardest part: deciding to go. Having the courage to make that decision is the hardest part.

You’ll make mistakes. Everyone does. But that’s part of the experience.

There will be lots of people out there to help you. You’ll be shocked at just how helpful and kind people are. You’ll make friends, you’ll survive, and you’ll be better for it.
 

2. Don’t Live by Your Guidebook

Guidebooks are useful for a general overview of a destination. They’re a great way to learn the basics and get introduced to the cities and countries you plan to visit. But you’ll never find the latest off-the-beaten-path attractions, bars, or restaurants in them.

For the latest info (as well as insider tips), connect with locals. Use websites like Meetup.com or Couchsurfing to connect directly with local and expats so you can get suggesitons, advice, and tips to make the most of your trip.

Additionally, ask other travelers you meet or the staff at your hotel/hostel. Visit the local tourist board as well. It’s a wealth of information that often gets overlooked.

In short, use a guidebook for the foundation of your plans but fill in the details with up-to-date info from locals.

You can also use travel blogs for planning tips since they are updated more often than guidebooks.
 

3. Travel Slow

This is something most new long-term travelers learn the hard way (myself included).

I know it can be tempting to pack in as many cities and activities as possible. (This is especially true if you only have a few weeks of vacation.)

But rushing from city to city every other day is just going to leave you exhausted and stressed out. You’ll experience a whirlwind of activity, most of which will remain a blur when you look back on it. Sure, you’ll have some great pictures for Instagram but is that really why you’re traveling?

Travel is about quality, not quantity. Don’t worry about how much you see. Don’t worry about trying to impress people with the number of countries you’ve visited. Slow down and soak up your destinations. You’ll learn more, enjoy it more, and have a much more memorable experience.

When it comes to travel, less is more. (Plus, traveling slow helps reduce your transportation costs. It’s cheaper to go slow!)

 

4. Pack Light

When I went to Costa Rica in 2003, I brought a bag filled with tons of stuff: hiking boots and pants, a fleece jacket, too much clothing, and my bodyweight in toiletries. And it all sat in my bag, mostly unused.

I was packing for “just in case” and “what if” instead of the reality of my trip.

While it can be tempting to bring more than you need “just in case,” remember this: you can buy things on the road. Socks, shampoo, jackets, new shoes — you can find it all aborad. There’s no need to bring everything and the kitchen sink.

So, pack light. You’ll have less to carry, saving you the hassle and stress of lugging a huge backpack around for weeks (or months) on end.

Unless you are going somewhere cold, a bag around 40 liters will suffice. Bags around this size are easier to carry, don’t get too unwieldy, and can fit on your flight as carry-on only if need be (a huge perk if you want to save yourself some headaches).

Here’s everything you need to know to help you find the perfect bag for your budget and your trip.
 

5. Get Travel Insurance

Whether you’re a travel veteran or a brand new backpacker, don’t leave home without making sure you’re protected in case something goes wrong. As we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, sudden emergencies can come out of nowhere.

I’ve had my luggage lost. I popped an eardrum in Thailand. I was knifed in Colombia.

I’ve had a friend break bones, need to be helicoptered out of the Amazon, or fly back due to a sudden death.

Stuff happens.

To ensure you’re protected, buy travel insurance.

I never leave home without it because I know just how quickly things can go sideways.

You never know what might happen. The road is filled with uncertainty. Make sure you’re protected. It will also give you peace of mind and help you travel with confidence.

Here are a few posts worth reading. I know it’s not a fun or sexy topic, but it’s an important one!

 

6. Bring a Phone (and Get Local SIM Cards)

Having a phone with data means you can look up directions on the fly, make reservations, and contact emergency services if something happens.

Sure, there is free wifi pretty much everywhere these days so buying a local SIM card for data might seem like a waste of money (especially if you’re on a really, really tight budget) but having that immediate access to roaming data can be a lifesaver.

If you’re from the US and traveling for less than 3 months, T-Mobile has reliable data plans. Google Fi is another great option too.

Additionally, having a phone makes it easier to connect and stay in touch with travelers you meet.

Simply put: having a phone is really helpful in this day and age.

Just don’t stay glued to it all the time.
 

7. Go with the Flow

When every day is planned out and there are timetables to follow, you’ll get stressed. Very stressed. You’ll rush around and be unhappy if there are any glitches in your well-curated schedule.

And there will be hiccups. And glitches. And all kinds of inconveniences, both major and minor. Life on the road doesn’t always go as planned — which is both fun and frustrating.

When you plan too much, there’s no room to experience the happy accidents of travel. There’s no room for spontaneous choice, for incorporating new information and advice that you learn.

When making your plan, make sure that it’s flexible. Learn to go with the flow. Plan one or two activities and let the rest of the day happen.

It’ll be a more enjoyable and less stressful experience. You’ll be surprised by what happens.

Be flexible. Let life unfold the way it should.
 

8. Bring Some Extra Money

Travel isn’t as expensive as many people think but you still need to create a budget that means your needs. The secret to long term travel is smart money management.

However, always overestimate the amount you need. You never know what might come up on the road. After all, you didn’t spend all that time saving every penny and staying home to skip those once in a lifetime activities?

Maybe you want to try bungee jumping or you discover an amazing restaurant you can’t pass up. Or maybe you meet some cool people and decide to scrap your plan altogether.

No matter how well you plan, something can always come up that will throw your budget out of synch.

That’s fine.

Just leave home with a little extra. If you’re planning says you’ll need $2,000, bring $2,500. It will give you a buffer for emergencies and spontaneity.
 

9. Remember Everyone is in the Same Boat

It takes courage to talk to strangers when you’re new to travel, especially if you’re an introvert like me. What do you say? Can you just invite people to join you? What if you end up alone?

These are all questions I had when I first started traveling. The good news? Everyone is in the same boat. All around you are other solo travelers looking for friends. They want to meet new people too.

While there are a few tricks to learn to help you meet people, it mostly just comes down to saying “hello” and taking that first step. Everything else will fall into place after that. You have nothing to lose and, in the process — this is how you’ll get over your shyness, make new friends, and get better at conversation.

 

10. Be Adventurous

The only time we grow is when we’re outside of our comfort zones. And travel is about growth. That doesn’t mean you need to do dangerous things, but it does mean you need to push yourself beyond what you’re used to.

Hiking, sky diving, eating new foods, camping, rock climbing, hitchhiking — whatever taking a risk looks like to you is 100% ok. Everyone has different interests and tolerance levels. Push yours. It may be scary and uncomfortable at the time, but you’ll be glad you did it later.

Challenge yourself. Try new things. You’ll walk away more self-confident.
 

11. It’s Ok to Change Your Mind

If you hate a city, leave and go to another one. If you don’t enjoy the tour your on, cancel it early. And if you really love the place you’re visiting, change your plans and stay longer.

It’s perfectly normal to change your mind on the road.

Maybe that means extending your trip. Maybe that means going home early. There’s nothing wrong with either choice.

Always remember you can go home if you aren’t having fun. You aren’t stuck with your decision to travel or your decision to be in a specific place. You’re the captain on your own ship. Never forget that!
 

12. Remember, You’re Not Alone

Wherever you go, there is a network of travelers who will be your friends, give you advice or tips, and help you out. They will guide you, point you in the right direction, and be your mentors.

You aren’t out there on your own.

And you will be OK.

***

I know you’re nervous about heading out into the unknown. It’s human nature to worry. But, if you remember these words of wisdom, you’ll go into this the right mindset and able to avoid rookie mistakes.

So take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy your trip!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

The post 12 Things I’d Tell Any New Traveler appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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How to See Alberta: A 10-Day Suggested Driving Itinerary

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The peaceful scenery of Banff, Alberta
Posted: 7/6/20 | July 6th, 2020

Dalene and Pete Heck, the duo behind Hecktic Travels is also the team at Road Trip Alberta! Dalene and Pete are Alberta raised and currently living in the province’s third-biggest city, Lethbridge. Alberta is one of the most scenic provinces in Canada and, today, Dalene shares a driving itinerary hitting many of her favorite Alberta sights.

Arguably Canada’s most beautiful province, Alberta is known primarily for the mountain hub of Banff National Park. Millions descend annually on Calgary airport and then high-tail it west for an hour and a half to visit this gem of the Rockies. The draw of Banff is entirely warranted but many of these visitors often miss out on everything else that Alberta has to offer.

Its cities are dynamic, other mountain towns are just as gorgeous and with fewer tourists, the southeastern side of the province is home to a trove of dinosaur bones, and the north is covered in lush forests and teeming with wildlife and outdoor adventures eager to be had.

As a born-and-raised Albertan, I left in my early thirties to see more of the world, craving exploration. When I returned almost a decade later, I did so with fresh eyes and an appreciation for the land that shaped me.

This article outlines a ten-day road trip itinerary shares some of my favorite spots in the province that will help you see more than crowds of tourists in Banff!
 

Day 1: Calgary

The towering skyline of Calgary, Alberta, Canada in the autumn

Dubbed “Cowtown” due to its roots in the cattle industry, Calgary is Alberta’s largest city (1.37 million people). Balancing modern urban architecture with friendly, small-town vibes, Calgary is a curious melting pot of folks from many backgrounds. It’s also home to an array of activities and a trendy food scene that will ensure that your days and tummies are full.

Start Downtown
Explore the Bow River’s network of walking and biking trails. See the prime photo spot of the Peace Bridge. For another prime photo op and to gaze upon an architectural wonder, don’t miss the Calgary Public Library, which was named one of the 100 Greatest Places of 2019 by Time magazine.

Not far from the library is Prince’s Island Park, which is a hub for cultural events. It’s home to the Calgary Folk Music Festival (in late July) and the esteemed River Café (a pricey restaurant but well worth it), and near to Eau Claire Market, which has some mouth-watering eats and specialty merchandise.

Fuel Up on Good Eats
Don’t miss out on Tubby Dog for a cheap, delicious, and fun meal? Play some classic arcade games while you try the Sumo (a dog with pickled ginger, Japanese mayo, wasabi, and seaweed salad) or the A-bomb (a dog with all the classic trimmings, plus a healthy dump of potato chips right on top). Another one of my faves is Native Tongues, which offers upscale Mexican food in the city center.

Consider Planning Your Visit Around These Festivals
The Calgary Stampede — also known as “the greatest outdoor show on earth” — takes over the city for ten days in early July. The world-class rodeo is just one facet of the event. There’s also a spectacular grandstand show plus all the rides and deep-fried festival foods you would expect. It’s also a giant, messy party too.

Beakerhead, held annually in mid-September, brings together the worlds of art, science, and engineering. Imagine a massive party filled with fire-shooting robots, an interactive science lesson on how to make the best chocolate chip cookie, and playing a giant life-sized version of Snakes & Ladders. It’s the best nerd party of the year.

Where to stay in Calgary

  • Canada’s Best Value Inn Chinook Station – Located near the Chinook LRT Station, this hotel features a continental breakfast, with rooms available starting as low as $49 CAD/night.
  • HI Calgary City Centre – If you happen to be a member of HI Canada, consider this hostel, located in the downtown core, just a two-minute walk to the C-train (local transit) station.
  • Hotel Arts – For more upscale and eclectic lodging near downtown, this hotel has top-rated amenities for a reasonable price.

 

Day 2: Banff

The picturesque city of Banff, Alberta, Canada with mountains in the distance
Next, head from Calgary to Banff, which takes about an hour and a half by car.

Note: You’ll need to purchase a park pass upon arrival at the gates just outside of town, or you can buy one online. The current daily rate for an adult is $9.80 CAD, and it will expire at 4:00 pm the following day.

If you’re planning on visiting multiple parks, you might consider a Parks Canada “Discovery Pass” for $67.70 CAD, which can be used for multiple days and will grant you entry to all Canadian national parks for one full year.

There are too many amazing hikes to list, but start with the iconic Johnston Canyon. Keep it short with a 30-minute walk to the Lower Falls, or plan for a full four-hour trek all the way to the Ink Pots. (For more info, read this guide to hiking in Banff.)

To really get the adrenaline pumping, head to Mt. Norquay for the Via Ferrata hike. Cross suspension bridges and climb ladders on the edge of a mountain, all while safely harnessed and led by an experienced guide.

There are also plenty of options for canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding on a number of nearby lakes. Visit the Banff Canoe Club in town for rentals.

Winter is a prime time to visit if you’re a ski bunny. Three mountains in the area known collectively as Ski Big 3 (Banff Sunshine, the Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay) are all world-class.

Be sure to take the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain for some epic views. It’s open year-round, and it has an impressive interpretive center and scenic boardwalk at the top, and even two restaurants.

Nearby is also the stunning Banff Upper Hot Springs.

Where to Eat
Wild Flour Bakery, known for its nourishing baked goods and good coffee, is an excellent stop to fill your tank at any time of day.

Eager to try some Canadian wild meats? Head to the Grizzly House to cook up your own bison, elk, or a number of other options using a hot stone at your table. The decor is severely outdated, but the experience is a must-do. Not a meat-eater? Head to Nourish Bistro for the best plant-based food in Banff.

Where to Stay in Banff

  • Banff International Hostel – Just a few blocks from the heart of downtown, this hostel is a comfortable place to rest your head after a long day of exploring!
  • YWCA Banff Hotel – The perfect hideaway in the mountains for those looking for a comfortable and budget-friendly accommodation.
  • HI Banff Alpine Centre – If you’re a member of the HI community, you may want to stay at this location, the largest hostel in Alberta.

 

Day 3: Banff and Lake Louise

Lake Louise and Banff at night under a starry sky
If you’re an early riser, head 15 minutes north to Two Jack Lake to catch a gorgeous sunrise. If it’s a clearer morning, bright red, orange, and purple will stain the sky and lake, silhouetting the mountain and creating a truly epic sight.

If there was anything left on your to-do list from the day before, finish that up now, but plan for almost a whole day around Lake Louise.

While in Lake Louise….
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the major draw in the area, and walking its halls is a must before you venture on any number of outdoor activities.

If you are there in summer, consider the Lake Agnes Tea House hike for its views and the unique experience of taking tea on top of the world (remember to bring cash, as they don’t have other payment options on-site). It is a short 2.2mile (3.5 km) hike, but you can also continue on to Lake Agnes itself.

Feeling adventurous? Then take “the Tea House Challenge” and visit the other one, too, The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, for a 9 mile (14.5 km) total hike on the Highline Trail.

If you are there in winter, skating, snowshoeing, dog-sledding, sleigh rides, and more are all available from the hotel. You will have no problem filling your day in one of the most beautiful spots in all of Canada.

Dining options are fewer in the very small town of Lake Louise, but find the Trailhead Café for a budget-friendly and supremely delicious meal. There are also several options inside the Chateau itself, but I recommend Alpine Social for its laid-back atmosphere and hearty food.
 

Day 4: Driving from Banff to Jasper

The beautiful landscape of Alberta, Canada between Banff and Jasper
Drive from Banff to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway. The drive itself is about 3.5 hours, but I suggest that you plan for a whole day as there are lots of stops to make along the way.

The Icefields Parkway is breathtaking. Take it slow and stop often to really absorb the beauty of this day. (Do, however, consult the weather forecast and road conditions, as it can often be closed in winter.)

Making the Drive
Fill up the car with gas and pack a picnic lunch before leaving Banff, as there is only one place to stop for snacks en route (Saskatchewan River Crossing) but it is closed in winter. But once you are safely on your way, here are just a few of the stops you can make:

  • Leave early to catch sunrise over Vermillion Lakes, just outside of Banff as you begin your journey north.
  • Peyto Lake is a must-see. You have undoubtedly seen its image before; now it’s time to see it for yourself! From your car it’s just a short walk up a hill to get to the viewpoint and take in that stark aquamarine water from above.
  • The Columbia Icefield, just an hour before Jasper, is the largest in the Canadian Rockies. You can take a tour to walk right on the glacier and/or take a stroll on the glass-floored Icefield Skywalk lookout to see everything from above.

There is much more to see! This Banff-to-Jasper article maps it all out for you.

Where to Stay in Jasper

  • Jasper Downtown Hostel – Conveniently situated in the heart of downtown Jasper, this modern hostel won’t break the bank; its private rooms start as low as $63 CAD/night.
  • HI Jasper – Just a short walk to downtown, the HI Hostel Jasper was opened in June 2019. Choose between private rooms, shared rooms for four, and family rooms.
  • Maligne Lodge – Conveniently tucked at the edge of Jasper’s main street, where the mountains end and the town begins, this is a great budget-friendly hotel.

 

Days 5 & 6: Jasper

The huge elk standing near a small lake in Alberta, Canada near Jasper
Jasper is the largest park in the Canadian Rockies and one of fifteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country. Rougher around the edges than its southern brother Banff, it’s the spot to hit if you’re craving fewer crowds and small-town charm.

Spirit Island is one of the most photographed spots in Canada. You can canoe out there and reach this spot on Maligne Lake in half a day. If you don’t feel like doing that, boat cruises are available too!

Moreover, take advantage of your remote location and book a tour to see some iconic Canadian wildlife (bears, elk, mountain goats, moose, and more). While such encounters may occur by chance on your visit, a guided tour will increase your chances and is a great way to gain local knowledge.

Additionally, in October, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival takes place.The park has ideal conditions for this given that there is so little light pollution. If you can’t make it there, the Jasper Planetarium is open year-round for star viewing.

There are so many hiking options. Start with a short jaunt to Athabasca Falls (less than an hour round-trip), and then ramp up according to your fitness level. (See this article about best Jasper hikes to decide what comes next.)

Just north of town is Maligne Canyon, and in winter, you can walk on and explore the frozen river (be sure you have ice cleats on). In the summer, you can hike in the canyon, and the winding trail has six suspension bridges spanning the gorge.

Take a load off and ride up the Jasper Skytram to experience the best mountain views. On a clear day, you can even see peaks in neighboring British Columbia. Enjoy the seven-minute ride up and have a bite at the Summit Restaurant at the top.

Must-Eats
Stop at the Bright Spot Family Restaurant for the big country breakfast, which will stick to your bones and give you energy for your day. Whistle Stop Pub is also good for a pint and snack. Canada’s very first national park brewery, Jasper Brewing Company, is also here. Along with six signature brews that are made on-site, the large restaurant offers elevated pub fare.
 

Day 7: Driving from Jasper to Edmonton

The stunning vista between Jasper and Edmonton in Alberta, Canada
The four-hour drive from Jasper to Edmonton is not the most exciting (the scenic views drop off quickly outside of the national park), but there are a couple of stops you can make along the way to spice it up.

If you don’t hit up Miette Hot Springs during your stay in Jasper, then it’s an easy stop on the way out of town. It is home to the hottest spring water in the Canadian Rockies! It requires a little detour off of the main highway, but the drive through the Fiddle Valley alone makes it worth the trip.

An hour into your journey, you can make a stop in Hinton to see the most iconic of local wildlife: the humble beaver. Stretch your legs along the nearly 2 mile (3 km) Beaver Boardwalk, and hopefully, you’ll spot Canada’s national animal.

This is also a great place to plan to have lunch: The Old Grind has an extensive menu that includes vegetarian and vegan options.

Arriving in Edmonton
Depending on what time you left Jasper, the driving conditions you encountered (add more time in winter!), and how many stops you made along the way, you may arrive with extra time to explore Alberta’s capital city. And my guess is that those car-bound legs are going to need a stretch.

As you drive into the west side of Edmonton, this would be the perfect occasion to take a long walk in the largest mall in North America. West Edmonton Mall is home to over 800 stories and services, and it contains theme parks, multiple movie theaters, a ridiculously fun indoor water park, and even a large skating rink.

Enjoying the mall can easily take up the rest of your day (and the next one, if you are a shopper).
 

Days 8 & 9: Edmonton

The skyline of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada during autumn
Teeming with history and culture rich as hot chocolate, Alberta’s capital city is the perfect way to finish off your tour of the province. Edmonton has been dubbed “the festival city” on account of its year-round cultural festivals, so you’ll never be short on things to do here.

The Fringe Festival is the biggest and oldest of its kind in North America and offers a dynamic theater experience. Running annually for ten days in the middle of August, it often attracts more than 1,500 local, national, and international artists, who give well over a thousand performances across the city.

The Silver Skate Festival is becoming one of the premier events in Alberta to celebrate and embrace winter. One highlight is the opening of the ice castles in Hawrelak Park, typically several weeks before the February festival. During the ten days of the festival itself, expect snow sculpting, skate races, helicopter tours, and more.

If you aren’t in Edmonton during a festival, take time and stroll through the grounds of the Alberta Legislature. Not only is “the Ledge” an architectural journey into the past (construction was started in 1907) but you can also learn about the Canadian government, Alberta’s political history, and the art and architecture of the building by taking a free tour.

Edmonton’s river valley is the largest urban park in North America, with 100 miles (160 kms) of maintained paths. So you don’t even have to leave the city itself to explore nature! Walk and cycle as far as you like, taking in any (or all) of the 20 city parks along the river.

Head for the Neon Sign Museum one night. This collection of 20 functional historic signs tells the story of Edmonton’s neon past al fresco. This exhibit is completely free and open 24/7.

If you didn’t get your wildlife fill in the Rockies, then head a short distance outside of the city to Elk Island National Park. Elk Island is the only fenced national park in Canada, a conservation effort to help bring the bison population back.

And you didn’t think I’d go this entire post without mentioning a hockey game, did you? The Edmonton Oilers play in one of the newest arenas in the NHL, so catch a game if you can, especially if they are playing their provincial rivals, the Calgary Flames.

If you are visiting in summer, you can also watch a heated Canadian football (not soccer) battle between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Calgary Stampeders.

Can’t-Miss Food and Drink
Stop at Duchess Bake Shop. This Parisian-inspired café blends some of Alberta’s favorite flavors with French pastries, all made from scratch daily. It’s regularly mentioned as one of the best cafés in the city.

Hathaway’s Diner has quality food at reasonable prices. And who doesn’t love old-school-diner kitsch?

A few years ago, Alberta’s tax system changed up the way it categorized breweries, which resulted in an explosion of craft beer across the province. Don’t miss a stop at Craft Beer Market as it offers up Canada’s largest selection of craft brews.

Where to Stay in Edmonton

  • HI Edmonton – Located just off of Whyte Avenue in Edmonton’s historic Old Strathcona neighborhood, this hostel is right near the river valley park system (also many bus stops to get to other destinations).
  • Days Inn Downtown – Conveniently located in the downtown core and only minutes away from local attractions, this hotel is an excellent option for those not wanting to give up comfort while staying on budget.

 

Day 10: Driving to Calgary

One of the funny displays in the Gopher Hole Museum in Alberta, Canada
It only takes three hours to drive from Edmonton to Calgary on a busy highway. Use your last day to visit more of Calgary.

If you have time, visit the Heritage Ranch near Red Deer (about halfway through the drive). A rancher will drop you off in the middle of the wilderness with a map and a compass (or a GPS). Your goal is to remain at large and capture four designated flags within an hour. All the while, you are being hunted by a man on a horse. It is terrifying and exhilarating and everything in between!

A little closer to Calgary, you can turn off the main highway into Torrington and find the Gopher Hole Museum. Gopher overpopulation is a problem in the area, and so the residents wanted to create something quirky to bring in tourists. The museum is one small room of taxidermied rodents staged in a variety of scenes that highlight local life (think curling gophers, beautician gophers, etc.). It will take no more than a half-hour to visit, but it is well worth the detour for all the WTF moments to be had.

***

Alberta is a very big province. By comparison, Texas is only 2% bigger. If it is the mountains that call you here, then that is rightly so, but I hope you will also take the time to explore other parts of this land rich in attractions. They will keep anyone and everyone entertained for ten days and beyond!

Dalene Heck and her husband Pete are behind the blog Hecktic Travels, which chronicles their journey since selling all their belongings in 2009. They’ve recently started the website Road Trip Alberta to encourage people to visit their home provence.

Book Your Trip to Canada: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!gho

Want More Information on Canada?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Canada for even more planning tips!

The post How to See Alberta: A 10-Day Suggested Driving Itinerary appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My 6 Favorite Hostels in Panama City

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The towering skyline of Panama City surrounded by its lush green parks
Posted:

Panama City is known as the shipping and financial hub of Central America — but there’s much more to the city than that.

Panama City is a bustling, lively city with a vibrant nightlife, tons of history, and delicious food. It’s a good hub to base yourself for a few days while you plan your next steps.

Since it’s not as cheap as other cities in the region, you’ll want to save money by booking yourself a hostel while you’re here. They’re the most cost-effective (and fun) way to enjoy the city.

However, there are a lot of things to consider when selecting a hostel. The top four when picking the best hostel in Panama City are:

  1. Location – Panama City is huge and it can take some time to get around. Pick a place that is central to the sites and nightlife you want to see. All the hostels listed here are in central locations.
  2. Price – In Panama City, you really get what you pay for, so if you go with a really cheap one, you’re probably going to get a hostel that is small, cramped, and doesn’t offer great service.
  3. Amenities – Every hostel in the city offers free Wi-Fi, and most have a free breakfast, but if you want more than that, be sure to do your research to find the hostel that best meets your needs!
  4. Staff – All the hostels listed here have amazing staff! They are super friendly and knowledgeable. Even if you don’t end up staying at one of the places listed below, be sure to look up reviews to ensure you end up somewhere where the staff is helpful and friendly! They can make or break a hostel!

To help you plan your trip, here is my list of the hostels in Panama City that I like the most. If you don’t want to read the longer list below, the following hostels are the best in each category:

Best Hostel for Budget Travelers: Hostal Casa Areka
Best Hostel for Families: Magnolia Inn Casa Viejo
Best Hostel for Solo Female Travelers: El Machio
Best Hostel for Digital Nomads: Selina Casco Viejo
Best Hostel for Partying: Hostal Casa Areka
Best Overall Hostel: Luna’s Castle Hostel

Want the specifics of each hostel? Here’s my comprehensive list of the best hostels in Panama City:

Price Legend (per night)

  • $ = Under $15 USD
  • $$ = $15-20 USD
  • $$$ = Over $20 USD

 

1. Magnolia Inn Casa Viejo

The posh interior of the Magnolia Inn Casa Viejo hostel in Panama City
This boutique hostel is located in Casa Viejo, the city’s beautiful Old Town. It’s clean and quiet, making it a good choice for families or travelers looking for some down time. The hostel is an old French colonial mansion and balances historic charm with modern amenities (like AC and Wi-Fi). The beds are basic and don’t have curtains but the mattresses are thick and comfy. There are also a few common areas where you can relax and hang out or watch TV. Since it’s quiet here, I’d suggest staying here if you want to get a good sleep. There are several social hostels nearby where you can grab a drink and hang out, letting you enjoy being social before returning to your quiet hostel.

Magnolia Inn Casa Viejo at a glance:

  • $$
  • Central location in the Old Town
  • Clean and quiet
  • Beautiful interior

Beds from $16 USD a night, rooms from $116 USD.

—> Book your stay at Magnolia Inn Casa Viejo!
 

2. Hostal Casa Areka

The outdoor swimming pool and hang out area at Hostal Casa Areka in Panama City
This energetic hostel has a pool, outdoor Wi-Fi, space to barbeque, and a spacious kitchen for cooking your own meals. It’s also surrounded by bars and restaurants, making it a good choice for those who want to party. The beds are pretty basic (no curtains for privacy) but are comfortable enough to sleep on. The dorms also only have 8 beds (or less) so you’re never crammed in with other people. There are lots of common areas to relax in and they have female-only dorms too. It’s the cheapest hostel in the city.

Hostal Casa Areka at a glance:

  • $
  • Swimming pool
  • Super affordable
  • Free breakfast

Beds from $9 USD a night, rooms from $35 USD.

—> Book your stay at Hostal Casa Areka!
 

3. El Machio

The colorful dorm rooms of El Machio Hostel in Panama City
This is a social hostel makes it really easy to meet people here since they have a pool, a small bar, play movies outside in their outdoor cinema, and organize tons of tours (they have affordable trips to the San Blas Islands). The beds aren’t the best. Nothing to write home about but the dorms have lockers to keep your items safe and you’re really staying here for the atmosphere. Brekafast is included, there’s a spacious kitchen for cooking, and the surrounding neighborhood is quite safe too.

El Machio at a glance:

  • $
  • Social atmosphere makes it easy to meet people
  • Free brekafast
  • Female-only dorms for added privacy and security

Beds from $13 USD a night, rooms from $50 USD

—> Book your stay at El Machio!
 

4. Luna’s Castle Hostel

The cool interior design of Luna's Castle Hostel in Panama City
This is my favorite hostel in the city. Housed in an old colonial mansion overlooking the ocean, it’s a cool backpacker hostel with a laid back vibe. Free breakfast is included, there’s a bar on-site for having fun, and the staff go above and beyond. They organize walking tours and other fun activities to ensure you have an amazing visit and meet cool people during your stay. They only have large dorms (10 or 12 beds) but the beds have curtains and the mattresses are comfy. It’s lively, social, and an institution on the Gringo Trail around Central America.

Luna’s Castle Hostel at a glance:

  • $$
  • Free breakfast
  • Easy to meet people
  • Beautiful location by the ocean

Beds from $16 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Luna’s Castle Hostel!
 

5. Zebulo Hostel

The spacious and empty dorm rooms of Zebulo Hostel in Panama City
Zebulo has lots of free perks, including free breakfast, free coffee and tea, and a jaccuzzi on-site. While the dorm beds are basic (squeaky metal bunks with no curtains), they’re comfortable enough and not crowded (they cap the rooms at 9 beds). They also organize tons of tours, such as trips to Colombia and the San Blas Islands. They also host lots of weekly events (like BBQ nights). It’s a laid-back hostel that makes it easy to meet people and enjoy all the city has to offer. They also have the cheapest private rooms in the city.

Zebulo Hostel at a glance:

  • $
  • Affordable private rooms
  • Lots of free perks
  • Organizes tons of tours and activities

Beds from $10 USD a night, rooms from $22 USD

—> Book your stay at Zebulo Hostel!
 

6. Selina Casco Viejo

A classy and spacious dorm room in Selina Casco Viejo hostel in Panama City
Located in the picturesque Old Town (in yet another historic colonial building), Selina is new hostel. It’s a chic, upscale hostel that’s popular with solo travelers and digital nomads. They’ve got a spacious outdoor patio for hanging out and there are lots of bars nearby. The beds are comfy and the showers have hot water (which is a nice perk since many hostels in the city don’t have hot water). There’s AC to keep you cool, a co-working space, a pool table, and lots of common areas for chilling out.

Selina Casco Viejo at a glance:

  • $
  • Lots of common areas to hangout in
  • Social atmosphere
  • Central location in the Old Town

Beds from $14 USD a night, $36 USD

—> Book your stay at Selina Casco Viejo!

***

Whether you’re looking to party or just want to relax and enjoy your trip alone, you’ll be able to find an affordable hostel in Panama City that won’t disappoint you!

Book Your Trip to Panama: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Looking for more information on visiting Panama?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to Panama with more tips on what to see, do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

Photo Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

The post My 6 Favorite Hostels in Panama City appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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California Road Trip: A 21-Day Suggested Itinerary

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An open road in Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
Posted: 7/2/2020 | July 2nd, 2020

California. It’s the third-largest state in the country and home to over 40 million people and a range of environments and landscapes: dense forests in the north, rugged mountains in the east, majestic deserts in the south, world-class beaches on the coast, and the fabulous wine regions on the coast and central valley.

And it’s perfect for road trips.

I’ve already outlined an awesome seven-day itinerary for Southern California, but today I wanted to share a longer, more comprehensive route for anyone who has a few weeks to explore more of the state’s cities and landscapes.

Even with three weeks, you’ll still miss a lot of great spots in this state (I mean you could spend months traveling California) but this suggested itinerary hits some of my favorite major — and not so major — places.
 

Days 1–3: San Francisco

The famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California
San Francisco is one of the most recognizable cities in the US. Home to hippies, yuppies, techies, students, and a sizeable immigrant community, it’s a vibrant and diverse city. It is an eclectic destination to visit. Here’s a list of a few of my favorite things to see and do:

  • Walk the Golden Gate Bridge – When it opened, it was the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge, stretching some 4,200 feet. It offers incredible views of the bay and the ships coming and going. You can walk across it too.
  • Tour Alcatraz – Alcatraz is one of the most infamous former prisons in the country. It housed some of the nation’s worst criminals, such as Al Capone. Today, it’s a national landmark where you can take tours of the prison, step foot in the cells, and learn about its history.
  • Visit the Beat Museum – Dedicated to the 1950s Beat Generation, this unique museum houses original manuscripts, rare books, letters, and more from authors like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. It also holds regular events, so check the website to see if anything is happening during your visit.
  • Take a food tour – San Francisco is known for its foodie culture. If you want to cast a wide culinary net and try a lot of different cuisines and dishes, consider taking a food tour. Some companies to check out are Wild SF Tours, Secret Food Tours, and TasteBud Tours.
  • Explore Chinatown – When immigrants from China first came to America, many set up shop in San Francisco. Today, in the biggest Chinatown in the U.S., you’ll find some of the best Chinese food in the country, as well as wonderful teahouses, bars, souvenir stalls, and fortune cookie makers.
  • Relax at Golden Gate Park – This gigantic park a great place to walk or relax. It features a Japanese garden, museums, an arboretum, a carousel, and many hiking and walking trails. It’s 20% bigger than New York’s Central Park so you easily could spend an entire day here!

For more suggestions, here’s a detailed list of things to see and do in San Francisco.

Where to Stay

  • HI San Francisco – Downtown – HI Downtown has some standard perks, like free breakfast and free towels, but the staff also organize a lot of events, including pub crawls, trips to Muir Woods and Yosemite, and bike tours across the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Green Tortoise Hostel – This lively hostel is my favorite in the city. It offers free breakfast, free dinners multiple times per week, and even a free sauna! It’s a party hostel, so be sure to stay here only if you’re looking to meet people and get rowdy.

For more suggestions, here’s a full list of my favorite hostels in San Francisco!
 

Day 4: Big Sur

The rugged coasts and blue waters of Big Sur, California
On the coast just over two hours south of San Francisco is a 90-mile expanse of stunning views and massive redwoods known as Big Sur. There are plenty of beautiful beaches, hiking trails, viewpoints, and campgrounds in case you want to stay overnight (which I recommend). It’s one of the most beautiful stretches of craggy, unspoiled coastline in the state, so take your time exploring as you head south.

Where to Stay
I suggest staying at least one night around Big Sur (or just south of the region) to split up the drive to LA. If you don’t have camping gear, Airbnb has a lot of places around the area. You can also just pop into any of numerous cheap motels in the area too.
 

Days 5–7: Los Angeles

The picuresque Santa Monica beach and ferris wheel
Though I hated it when I first visited, I’ve come to love Los Angeles. It’s not a “tourist” city: everything is spread out and there are not many attractions as you’d expect. But, if you come to LA and go with the flow like a local, you’ll see why people love it so much. This is a city where you eat, drink, hike the many trails in the area, and linger in a coffeeshop.

Here are some suggestions on how to fill your days:

  • Hit the beach – Venice Beach is an iconic LA hotspot where you’ll encounter all kinds of street performers, surfers, rollerskaters, and both locals and tourists alike soaking up the sun. Other beaches worth checking out are Carbon Beach, Santa Monica State Beach, Huntington City Beach, and El Matador.
  • See the Le Brea Tar Pits – Located in Hancock Park, these natural asphalt pits have existed for over 50,000 years. Tons of fossils preserved for centuries have been found in the pits, and there’s a museum nearby that has lots of interesting information about them and how they came to be.
  • See the Hollywood Sign – You can snap pictures of the sign from pretty much anywhere in Hollywood. However, it’s also possible to hike up to the sign itself to take in the view. The three trails that you can take (from easiest to hardest) are the Mt. Hollywood Trail, the Brush Canyon Trail, and the Cahuenga Peak Trail. Bring water, because the hike will take a few hours.
  • Visit LACMA – Home to some 150,000 works, the LA County Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the western USA. They have collections from pretty much every era throughout history and every region of the world. Admission is $25 USD.
  • Visit The Last Bookstore – This is one of my favorite bookstores in the world. It also sells records, has art displays, and features a cool upstairs area with cheap used books. Browse the shelves, grab a coffee, and buy a book for your journey.
  • Stroll down Hollywood Boulevard – Don’t miss the Walk of Fame (where celebrities have their names engraved in the sidewalk) and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (featuring celebrities’ handprints and footprints).
  • Visit the Getty Museum – This art museum opened in 1997 and boasts a diverse collection paintings, manuscripts, drawings, and other artwork. The collection runs from the eighth century to the present day, so there is something for everyone. Admission is free.
  • Go hiking – Get out and stretch your legs on the city’s hiking trails. Some worth checking out are the Charlie Turner Trail (90 minutes), Baldwin Hills (30 minutes), Runyon Canyon (45 minutes), Portuguese Bend Reserve (3 hours), and Echo Mountain (3-3.5 hours).
  • Visit The Broad – This contemporary art museum is one of the city’s newest. Opened in 2015, it has over 2,000 pieces of art. It also has a rotating series of temporary exhibitions too (check the website to see what’s on during your visit). Admission is free.

For a much longer list on what to see and do in LA, check out my Los Angeles travel guide.

Moreover, the city also has innumerable world-class food options. Some places I really like are Musso & Frank Grill, Dan Tana’s, Meals by Genet, The Butcher’s Daughter, Sugarfish, and Thai Pepper.

Where to Stay

  • Banana Bungalow Hollywood – A laid-back but social hostel that organizes lots of activities and makes it easy to meet people. If you want to party and have fun, this is the place for you!
  • Freehand Los Angeles – This hostel/hotel features designer rooms with comfortable beds, a rooftop pool and bar with amazing views of the city, a lobby bar, a restaurant, and even a fitness center.

For more suggestions, here’s a list of my favorite hostels in Los Angeles.
 

Days 8–9: San Diego

The wide, white-sand Pacific Beach near San Diego, California
San Diego, just two hours down the coast, has just as much to offer. It’s easier to navigate (it’s smaller), the weather is always perfect, the beaches are better, and it’s cheaper too. After LA, it’s my favorite city in the state. Spend a day or two soaking up the city.

Here are some suggestions for things to see and do during your visit:

  • Visit the USS Midway Museum – This aircraft carrier, commissioned right after World War II, was the largest ship in the world until 1955 and saw action in numerous conflicts, including Vietnam. It was decommissioned in 1992 and became a museum. You can explore the flight deck as well as many of the rooms below.
  • Hike Point Loma – This is the peninsula where Europeans first arrived in California. Walk out to the tip and enjoy the serene views, visit the lighthouse (built in 1855), and watch locals climb the rocks and cliffs of Osprey Point.
  • Visit the San Diego Zoo – This is one of the best zoos in the country. Located in Balboa Park (see below), it has over 3,500 animals and 700,000 plant species. It’s a massive, 1,800-acre park where you could easily spend an entire day. If you’re traveling with kids, don’t miss it.
  • Explore Balboa Park – In addition to the zoo, Balboa Park also offers dozens of museums as well as walking paths, sports fields, gardens, greenhouses, stadiums, theatres, and much more. It’s one of the oldest recreational parks in the country.
  • Enjoy Pacific Beach – If you want to soak up the sun, swim, or surf, head to Pacific Beach. If you’re a night owl, the area also has lots of bars, clubs, and restaurants too.
  • Go whale watching – California gray whales, which can grow up to 49 feet and live for over 70 years, migrate from Alaska to Mexico each year between December and April. They are incredible to see up close, and tours are quite affordable (usually around $35 USD).
  • Relax in Belmont Park – This is a kitschy amusement park right next to the ocean. It has a few classic rides, as well as games and lots of greasy (and delicious) snacks. It’s cheesy but fun!
  • Go surfing – Whether you’re a veteran or a newbie, grab a board and hit the waves. There’s some awesome surfing here. You can usually rent a board for around $30 USD a day. Lessons cost around $70 USD and last 90-minutes.

Where to Stay

  • HI San Diego – HI San Diego organizes lots of events and tours that make it easy to meet other travelers. They include free breakfast and also have a big kitchen so you can cook your own food to save money.
  • ITH Adventure Hostel – This is an eco-friendly hostel with a vegetable garden (guests get free veggies), a recycling and compost program, and even backyard chickens. There is lots of outdoor common space to relax in too.

If you’re on a budget, here’s a list of the best hostels in San Diego for you.
 

Days 10–12: Joshua Tree National Park

The beautiful and unique Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park, California
Located just under three hours from San Diego and sandwiched between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, this is where you’ll find the iconic Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia), twisted multibranched trees. Towering boulders dot the arid landscape and swaths of cacti poke up from the hard dirt. It’s an otherworldly place perfect for hiking, camping, and escaping the busy cities along California’s coast.

The park was declared a national monument in 1936 and designated a national park in 1994. There are a lot of trails here, so consult the trail map when you visit. Some of my favorites are:

  • Barker Dam Trail – A quick 1.1-mile loop on which you can see wildlife such as rabbits, bighorn sheep, and all kinds of birds.
  • Wall Street Mill – An easy 2.8-mile hike that leads to an old mill used to refine ore from nearby gold mines.
  • Ryan Mountain – A steep 3-mile hike offering some incredible views.
  • Split Rock Loop – A quiet 2-mile hike with lots of neat rock formations.

A seven-day vehicle pass for the park is $30 USD (it allows multiple entries in case you stay in one of the nearby towns).

Where to Stay
Airbnb is the best option if you don’t have your own camping gear, although there are also glamping and more rustic options.
 

Days 13–15: Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon National Park

The massive redwoods and sequoias in Sequoia National Park, California
Sequoia National Park, established in 1890, is where you’ll find the largest single-stem tree in the entire world. Named “General Sherman,” this giant sequoia tree stands a whopping 275 feet tall and has a diameter of 25 feet (that’s a 103-foot circumference). It’s so big that one of its branches is bigger than almost every single tree east of the Mississippi.

Start your visit at the Giant Forest Museum to learn about the history, geography, and importance of the park and its flora and fauna. Afterward, walk the Big Trees Trail, a short loop that will get you in and amongst the trees so you can see them up close.

For a sweeping view of the forest and surrounding landscape, hike up Moro Rock, a massive 250-foot granite dome that juts out of the surrounding hills and forest. Stairs and a concrete viewpoint were built into the rock itself, so you can safely climb to the top and enjoy the magnificent vista.

And for more hiking options and beautiful scenery, visit nearby Kings Canyon National Park. Here you’ll find “General Grant” (the third largest tree in the world). For a scenic drive, cruise along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway.

Both parks are around 4-6 hours from Joshua Tree.

Where to Stay
There are tons of places to camp here (both inside and outside of the parks). However, there are also lots of lodges and hotels if camping is not for you. Booking.com has the best list of them all.
 

Days 16–18: Yosemite National Park

The beautiful scenery of Yosemite National Park, California
Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range two hours from Sequoia National Park and encompassing nearly 750,000 acres, Yosemite is one of the most iconic national parks in the country. It’s where you’ll find El Capitán, the towering granite cliff you’ve likely seen on social media (it was also featured in the movie, Free Solo). It is one of the most popular parks in the US, seeing over four million visitors each year who enjoy hiking, biking, climbing, camping, rafting, canoeing, and kayaking here.

Here are a few hiking suggestions to help you get started:

  • Mirror Lake – An easy 2-mile hike to Mirror Lake. Takes 1-2 hours.
  • Nevada Fall Trail – A challenging 5.8-mile hike to the top of the Nevada Falls waterfall. Takes 5–6 hours.
  • Tuolumne Grove Nature Trail – An easy 2.5-mile hike around a grove filled with massive giant sequoia trees. Takes 1–2 hours.
  • Elizabeth Lake Trail – A moderate 4.8-mile hike that leads to Elizabeth Lake, a glacier-carved lake at the base of Unicorn Peak. Takes 4–5 hours.
  • Eagle Peak Trail – A difficult 6.9-mile hike to the top of Eagle Peak and back. Takes 8 hours.

Be sure to visit the visitor’s center on arrival to get information on activities, prices, and information on the latest weather.

Where to Stay
If you aren’t planning to camp, there are actually many other options here. Lodges, resorts, and hotels can be found both inside the park and all around it. Use Airbnb or Booking.com to find a place to stay.
 

Days 19–20: Napa Valley

A hot air balloon floating over vineyards in Napa Valley, California
Finally, head northwest to Napa Valley, one of the world’s premier wine regions, and end your trip relaxing at a vineyard. Napa is just over three hours from Yosemite and offers a plethora of world-class wine and food to indulge in.

While it’s a particularly expensive region of the state, it is possible to visit Napa Valley on a budget if you plan ahead and share costs with other people.

If you’re on a budget, stick to the markets and sandwich shops. Gott’s Roadside has locations in both Napa and St. Helena and serves delicious burgers for under $10 USD, while Ad Hoc runs a delicious food truck offering fried chicken made by a Michelin-star chef for $15 USD with sides.

Whereto Stay
While some vineyards offer accommodation, they are usually super expensive. Unless you’re looking to splurge, use Airbnb. I find the best value accommodation in the area on that site.
 

Day 21: Back to San Francisco

It’s time to head back to San Francisco. The drive is around 90 minutes, so you’ll have plenty of time to make stops along the way if you see anything that piques your interest.

***

This three-week itinerary will help you cover a lot of ground without being too rushed. Adjust the route as you go (or based on the amount of time you have). But, no matter the route you pick, the diversity and beauty of California will ensure you’ll have a wonderful road trip.

Book Your Trip to the USA: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on traveling the United States?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide to the US for even more tips on how to plan your visit!

The post California Road Trip: A 21-Day Suggested Itinerary appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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